Plodding through Papua
|Finn and his protector, Gebe Island|
|Boy and bird, North Moluku|
Papua, as you will know, has seen its fair share of unrest and part of the outfall of this has been a lack of tourism - makes sense. Coming here on boats, we are the only tourists to be seen and whilst people are generally friendly, it really is unknown territory. Due to the problems that arise when we anchor near villages, we try to find places to stay that are isolated but inevitably word spreads and someone comes to find us and ask us to see the 'kepala desa' or village head. This is no problem if we want to stay a while but if we arrive at 4pm to eat and sleep and then leave again it is hard - we're going to be asked for money and it's going to take all our free time. In one location a few nights ago everyone but me - on all three boats I think - was in bed when a light shone into the boat and I went out to find six men - one with a rifle - on the back steps. They spoke no English; I could have used our Indonesian phrase book if it hadn't been stolen in the backpack with the alternator .... Scott got up and we tried to figure out what they wanted. The one wearing a hat saying 'Polisi' was apparently the local bobby and they wanted us to go to the police station at the village some miles away. Right then, in the middle of the night. We managed to convey that we had kids sleeping, showed them our paperwork and were told to come at 8 in the morning - we weren't going anywhere in the dark in a canoe with six men and a gun, even if one of them did have a nice hat. At 5.30am we had our anchors up and were heading as far away as possible.
|Scott at the petrol station at Gebe|
As I write, we are in Manokwari and I am standing anchor watch. After our Sorong experience we're just extra careful in towns - am sure that the locals are friendly and not bent on crime. When we went briefly to the town today the local people were very interested in us and there was a lot of smiling, with clear evidence of the local Papuans' liking for betel nut.
You will have picked up by now that I am not really the adventurous type, unlike my never-give-up husband, who just gets on with what has to be done - and that is plenty. I look back longingly and Borneo and Thailand and the Southern areas of Indonesia where we never felt insecure and didn't have to lock the boat - ah well. Anyway, were Scott writing this he would give quite a different account. He says that we just have to make the best of it and get to the islands off PNG, where he will catch me all the crays I can eat. I will be holding him to that.
From here we head East to Jayapura. There are rumours of nice islands along the way. With a bit of luck, this rumour may be correct. Please be reminded that I do have a good imagination and am easily alarmed. I also like to tell a good tale. So don't worry about us out here - we are all fine and at least there are no head hunters.
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